Best Sunglasses for Cycling

When asked what the most important piece of gear for their ride is, most pro or semi-pro cyclists instantly reply “My shades”. This is due to the nature of the sport. Like most sports, cycling shades do provide passive protection, such as making sure an object headed towards the eye socket doesn’t damage the eye. Unlike most sports though, cycling sunglasses provide active protection; they help make sure wind and small airborne particles are not pushed into the eye, allowing it to stay clean, hydrated, and protected. You don’t want to get mechanical dry eye syndrome! Read about how important it is to keep those orbs moist at

Uniqueness of Lens

Cycling glasses are different from most other types of sunglasses due to the need to cut out the wind, both to reduce drag and to keep it from your eyes. Because of this, the best sunglasses for cycling have a one lens design which spans both eyes. While the color or polarization of the lens are up for personal preference, many prefer a polarized lens, mirrored outer surface, and a darker color, somewhere around 60 to 80% opacity. It goes without saying that all lenses should have 100% UVA and UVB protection. The speed at which you will ride and the broad flat surface you will look at lets a significant amount of light into your eyes, a lot of it from reflections.

One type of lens, though, which has gained popularity for riders today, is the photochromic clear type, which adjusts its opacity based on the amount of light hitting it. A great explanation of lenses, including photochromic, can be found here The only problem with these types of lenses are that they don’t last quite as long as normal sunglasses, so if you go that route, plan to get a new pair every four or five years, depending on how much you use them. The good news is that you can extend their life by storing the glasses in a lightproof box when not using them.

Overall Shape of Sunglasses

Cycling sunglasses are also pretty unique in that the preferred style is rimless all the way around. This means that both the top and bottom of the lens will be without a frame, with a slip or glued on nosepiece. The glasses are meant to be close to the face but not sit on it tightly, giving the eye socket room to breathe to avoid fogging up the lenses. The arms of the glasses usually connect at the top exterior corners of the lenses. The best types will be both glued and screwed through the lens, giving added stability. In addition, the arms of cycling sunglasses are normally very thick. This does not interfere with peripheral vision, but creates a larger surface area to touch the temples and sides of the head, compensating for the lack of rims on the lens itself. This makes sure they don’t slip and slide on your head. Check out this experiment on why having a larger viewable area is better

Off Road

The game is changed a little if you are an off-road rider. While the traditional cycling design will work, and the type of lens is also more of a choice of preference than anything else, most off-roaders prefer a two lens design with a sturdy frame rather than one lens. This provides better fall protection in case of an accident. They also tend to prefer their sunglasses to not be polarized, as while on the road depth perception is much less of an issue than when riding 30mph down a dirt gully with lots of twists and turns. There, it’s a critical part of the game, and you can’t afford to make mistakes. If you do, you tumble.

Two Types of Riders

Whether you are an off-road rider or cruise the asphalt, the needs are similar: protect the eyes from wind and particulates, and improve vision clarity. The frame styles differ for the needs of fall protection, but if in doubt there are plenty of hybrid models that combine very thin yet solid frames with a one-lens style. These types of glasses often come with swappable lenses, so you can have multiple lenses based upon the riding conditions of the day. Make sure, though, that no matter which style of rider you are, you try to get shatterproof lenses, as any sort of fall can crack a lens, and your eyesight is all-important.